Les Caixes d'Estalvis i la protecció social a Catalunya

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


Born in the first half of the XIX century, savings banks were created as a tool of social protection for the workers by promoting private savings. In the XX century they have become important social protectors, collaborating in the setting up of our Welfare State and of the most important financial and philanthropic, private institutions in Catalonia.
The social protection elements of the savings banks activity could be historically synthesised as follows:
- The effort to avoid the exclusion from financial services of social sectors and territorial areas with less resources.
- The creation of private social provision systems when the public ones did not exist, and the effort to complement them when they did exist.
-The historical financing of the social and economic policies by the public administration through the capital requirement ratios.
-Its task to promote concurrence in the financial sector.
-The devoting of its surpluses to activities of promotion and social protection of citizens by complementing public initiatives.
However, in contrast with private banking, savings banks are not societies with a capital shared among shareholders. Rather, they are non-profit companies, foundational in nature, ruled by decision organs representing: the deposit holders, territorial public corporations, founding entities and social entities of recognized rootedness in the area of activity of each savings bank, and the employees. Therefore, they are companies that due to their characteristics belong to the entrepreneurial and associative tissue of the so-called social economy.
The keeping of this special form of general interest society is contested by private banking. However, the complaint by organisms of banking representation arguing that "savings banks can buy banks and banks can not buy savings banks" is a subtle form of advocating for changes in the regulation of savings banks that would lead them towards a gradual conversion into capital societies. This would remove them from the field of the social economy.
The aim of this thesis is to argue for the non-profit character of savings banks, along with their belonging to the social economy sector, and correcting the weak points that have appeared in the management of building societies and in some legal reforms since the financial deregulation process initiated in 1977. This process, which entailed the operatory equation between banks and building societies, ended in 1992 with the total disappearance of the capital requirement ratios, something that can risk its historic will of social protection.
From the study of this weak points, a group of elements stand out that highlight the two main risks that could seriously jeopardise their historic identity: a) a loss of social sensitivity in their management and administration, and b) legal reforms that lead them towards a gradual conversion into private capital societies.
From this point of view it seems clear that the decision organs of those savings banks have not made a sufficient effort to design a commercial practice and a policy of financial products and services based in its historic values of social responsibility. They have too uncritically assumed the marketing systems of companies that perceive the customer only as a potential consumer of its products.
On the other hand, the passing of the participative shares, included in the Ley 44/2002, de Reforma del Sistema Financiero (Reform of the Financial System Bill), as a negotiable active in the stock market both for particulars and for institutions, introduces a distorting element in the directive coherence of the sectors represented in the decision organs. This can jeopardise the very viability of the current configuration of the savings banks as non-profit financial entities.
In order to correct these weak points and to protect the social heritage represented by savings banks, the thesis argues for a strengthening of their character as social economy companies. A number of suggestions are listed in the last chapter of the thesis.
Date of Award19 Dec 2005
Original languageCatalan
Awarding Institution
  • Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)
SupervisorFrancisco Perez Amoros (Director)

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